Sunday, June 30, 2013

Predators Steal Seth Jones With the 4th Pick at the NHL Entry Draft

The Nashville Predators are a team that has been built by the draft. Draft solid players, be patient with their development, and at the right time, bring them up to the NHL.

And they have had some success with that model. Shea Weber, Pekka Rinne, and Kevin Klein are some examples.

The Predators have shown proficiency with drafting and developing goaltenders and defensemen. That has been a strength of the scouting staff and the coaches at all levels.

While the team has enjoyed some success developing their young players, there is no doubt that the team has been average at best in drafting and developing forwards. This fact is confirmed by the Predators scoring struggles last season and for most of their history.

Take a look at the forwards on the roster last season. The leading goal scorer for the team had 11 goals, and there was no forward that was a consistent scoring threat. There was no forward that was a scary offensive threat to the opposing team. There was no forward that could dominate a shift, much less a game.

The 2013 Entry Draft offered the Predators the opportunity to add a player that could change that dynamic. Picking fourth, the Predators were expected to have a choice of an impact forward if the draft played out as many pundits thought it would.

About those expectations...

Seth Jones, the putative number one pick, was expected to go to the Colorado Avalanche, who desperately needed help on the blue line. Instead, the Avalanche selected a forward, Nathan MacKinnon. Florida selected the player many thought would fall to the Predators, Alexander Barkov. Tampa Bay selected Jonathan Drouin, another dynamic forward.

Surprisingly, the projected number one pick fell to the Predators at the fourth pick.

And Seth Jones is now a Predator.

Jones brings to the Predators a smooth skating, solid presence on the blue line. He has good hockey sense and will continue to grow into his frame. His physical edge is a plus, and having the opportunity to be coached by Phil Housley, who was recently added to the Predators staff, will be a critical and positive for his development. And having Shea Weber to mentor him will only elevate his game.

There is no doubt that Jones was the best player available when the Predators went on the clock. And Predators General manager had said there would be no hesitation to draft Jones should he fall to the fourth pick.

With the Predators desperately needing scoring, there are some that will be disappointed with the selection of Jones. However, the addition of Jones gives the Predators some options. If he is not NHL ready this season, he soon will be. I believe that Jones will be on the opening day roster. If so, the Predators blue liners will be Weber, Roman Josi, Kevin Klein, Victor Bartley, Hal Gill, Jones, and either Ryan Ellis or Mattias Ekholm.

Jones will bring competition for a roster spot and playing time to the Predators defenders. The Predators have not extended Jonathan Blum, a blue liner that just never panned out. Hal Gill is in the twilight of his career and is playing limited minutes. Ekholm has an opportunity to show that he belongs on the roster. And Ryan Ellis should be concerned. The undersized defenseman could possibly be trade bait to get the Predators some offensive help.

Jones will not supplant Roman Josi as Weber's partner on the blue line. This pair showed good chemistry and their game is very complimentary. Both Jones and the Predators have the opportunity and luxury of easing him into the lineup. I would expect to see Jones in a third pairing to get him introduced to the NHL game.

The Predator philosophy has always been to build the team from the net out. Integral to the success of the team has been a corps of defenders that can shut down the opponents scoring. For the most, the Predators have been successful in adding and developing the players that can play outstanding defense.

With the addition of Seth Jones, the Predators have added another building block for their success.

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